Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sorting out Partisanship, Ideology and Character

Hyperpartisanship. Moonbats. Republitards. The other side is "drinking the Kool-Aid", ignoring reality. The other side despises you and by extension, all mankind. We live in a dystopian police state where a monied elite all but owns the government. We live in a nanny state where corrupt Congressmen try to legislate behavior while having no moral center themselves.

Partisan rancor is at levels not seen since the turn of the last century. Progressives are enraged by the halt in the steady march of the progressive agenda that for the last fifty years seemed inevitable. Conservatives are angered by the erosion of values caused by years of liberal policies and are hunkering down in the trenches, unwilling to give up the any of the policy gains of the last decade.

For a guy who loves Howard Dean, LA Times writer Ronald Brownstein makes the point very eloquently in The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America. Except for a few "but they started it first" snipes, he explains how both parties have driven out moderates and created a climate where the goal is not a working bipartisan relationship but a "Fifty-One Percent Solution" so that as a majority they can legislate without the need for bipartisanship. Ideology has been sharpened and compromise denigrated.

In the current presidential race all the Democratic candidates are constantly harping on the word "Change". In the context of the current political climate it seems to be a code word for a return to the progressive ideals of the past and a break with the current partisan rancor. The implication is as long as Progressives get their way, partisanship will cease.

The Republican candidates are a less homogeneous lot. Huckabee, McCain and to a certain extent Romney are walking a fine line between honoring the conservative base and touting their coalition-building credentials to put Moderates, Independents and Democrats at ease. Thompson and Giuliani have seem to say "here I am, warts and all - take me or leave me". While their actual policy positions are considerably different, Giuliani's checkered, out-in-the-open past and Thompson's good-ol-boy, rags-to-riches stories recommend them to me as real people with real character.

And so, there are my biases. Of course I can be fooled, and my record at picking presidential winners is pretty abysmal. But I'll take character over specific policies any day.

Up to a point, that is.

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